Lewis Hamilton won Sunday’s inaugural Qatar Grand Prix with a commanding performance from pole to cut Max Verstappen’s world championship lead to eight points.
The Mercedes seven-time champion comfortably held off his arch Dutch rival’s Red Bull under the Losail circuit’s lights to leave the battle for the F1 drivers’ crown delicately poised with only two races remaining.
Fernando Alonso took third for Alpine, the former two-time world champion’s first podium since 2014.
One week on from arguably his toughest and greatest win in Brazil, Hamilton enjoyed one of his easiest.
And after an unprecedented eighth world title appeared to be slipping from his grasp after Verstappen’s wins in the USA and Mexico, it is the 36-year-old Briton rather than the 12-year-younger pretender who has the momentum.
“We needed those points today. I can’t wait to watch the race replay to find out what happened behind me,” he said after his 102nd career win.
“I’m really grateful for these points, it’s been a hell of a year. Back-to-back wins here, feel good, I feel fit, fitter than I’ve ever felt. Bring on the next two!”
Verstappen, who was demoted from second to seventh on the grid for a yellow flag infringement in qualifying on Saturday, took second, and picked up a point for the fastest lap.
“Our starting position was compromised, but luckily we had a really good start,” he said.
“Of course, I know it’s going to be difficult to the end but it keeps it nice, keeps it exciting. This track was fun to drive as well. I feel good, but it’s going to be a tight battle to the end.”
Hamilton’s faster engine, fitted last weekend in Sao Paulo, will give Red Bull a likely tough time again at the ultra quick new circuit in Saudi Arabia in a fortnight’s time ahead of the season-closing race in Abu Dhabi in mid-December.